Marc Brush is a former editor of Nutrition Business Journal and is principal in the consulting firm Bend LLC. Brush, who will participate as a panelist during a session of NutraIngredients-USA’s Healthy Aging Online Event, which is scheduled for May 29, shared some of his thoughts about where the sector is headed.
Brush started by saying that the concept of healthy aging is so all encompassing that it makes it difficult for marketers to craft a message that connects broadly with consumers. Is healthy aging about joint mobility? Maintaining musclar strength? Keeping up a youthful appearance, i.e., a beauty-from-within idea? What about cognitive decline, the 800-lb gorilla in the room?
“Healthy aging is a beast of a topic. How are you going to begin to say something meaningful about it?” Brush said.
“The reason healthy aging still exists as a viable concept is it can mean whatever you want it to mean,” he said.
At its core, the aging process has to do with the erosion of cellular function. Cells as a matter of course live, die and are replaced. But as the body ages, more and more cells start to enter a senescent phase, where their function declines and where they no longer divide. As more of these cells accumulate in a tissue, that tissue’s function is compromised, whether it’s joint tissue or brain tissue we’re talking about.
“I think a lot of these processes start with oxidative stress. You might be able to find some science that supports an anti oxidative stress or anti inflammation claim,” Brush said.
In terms of what that might look like on the shelf, Brush said a product built along those lines might be a new healthy aging multivitamin that includes things like macular carotenoids for their antioxidant potential.
“So that would be something that would help you age well in one easy box. I don’t think the market is going there, though,” Brush said.
Opportunity in personalization
Rather, he believes the way forward in the health aging space is to connect the concept with the development of personalization strategies. Every consumer is going to have a unique set of concerns about their health as they age, and smart companies will try to meet them there, he said.
“Where is personalization really working in the market now? It’s working with highly motivated biohacker programmers in Silicon Valley who have a lot of time to spend on these ideas,” he said.
“If we can get to solutions for health aging that are highly personalized, it could add some heft to the health aging market is not currently supplied because by its nature the category is so abstruse,” Brush said.
Among those personalized concerns, cognitive decline takes center stage. According to a recent study in the Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, about 13% of respondents on a survey said they very worried or worried about developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Recent data from Natural Marketing Institute finds the concern greatest for people under age 50.
But crafting a dietary supplement that can address dementia is very tricky, Brush said. Even though there are few truly effective drugs to treat the condition, it is still considered the purview of pharmaceuticals. Brush said working around the margins of cognitive decline might be an easier path for marketers to take.
“You very quickly get to disease states in the claims,” Brush said. “Personally, I think there is more opportunity in the mood support end of cognitive decline.”
Healthy Aging Online Event
Brush will participate in a panel on the Future of Healthy Aging with an emphasis on cognitive function. Brush on the panel will be Susan Mitmesser, PhD, vice president of science and technology at Pharmavite, attorney Claudia Lewis of the Venable law firm and Mark Miller, PhD, chief innovation officer at INW Manufacturing. For more information on the event click here.